Thursday, January 25, 2024

Me? A Financial Faker?


Robert Benchley, a humorist from the first half of the 20th century, wrote a short story/essay about how he cured his wife of always telling him to ask other people for directions when they were on a road trip.  In the story, titled “Ask That Man”, Benchley described his frustration over carefully plotting his and his wife’s trips on a map only to have his wife worry that they were taking the wrong road or turning the wrong direction and insisting he ask a nearby stranger or gas station attendant for directions.  He became so fed up with it that he resolved on one trip to do just as she instructed every time—except that instead of really asking for help, he pretended to engage in a conversation with the stranger then came back to his wife with bogus directions that took them ever farther afield.  Finally, after going through this exercise several times and becoming desperately lost, Benchley himself offered to “ask that man over there” for directions—to which his wife blurted out, “No!  Just do what you think best.”   Then he easily navigated his way home.

For any woman reading this, the lesson should be that men HATE to ask for directions.  But I suspect Suze Orman, the personal finance expert of television fame, had that thought in mind when she recently labeled men “financial fakers”.


Orman said on several occasions she had deliberately offered male clients complicated, nonsensical financial strategies that the men not only did not question but pretended to understand.  She insists that 95% of Americans, male and female, are financial illiterates; but the men are especially loath to admit their own shortcoming.

Orman is just one of many voices that are urging Americans to learn more about investing and managing money.  A group of women calling themselves Dow Janes (I love the clever name!) is on that bandwagon, too, with online courses and other teaching tools for women who feel deficient in this area.

As I’ve written before, women stand to be the immediate beneficiaries of the Baby Boomer wealth that will be passed on since they tend to outlive their Baby Boomer husbands by an average of six years.  And bigger gaps in the age of the man and woman in a marriage is becoming more common and spells even longer periods of widowhood.  Knowing what to do with that wealth and how to avoid ever-present scams to separate them from that wealth is critical.  Sadly, most financial advisors are Caucasian males, nearly half of them over age 50.  And as the Washington Post recently reminded us, a 2009 study by Boston Consulting Group found financial services “the industry least sympathetic to women”.  Women report being ignored in meetings they and their husbands have with their financial advisor.  The advisor doesn’t even talk in her direction or make eye contact with her.

No wonder women feel sidelined and maybe a bit reluctant to engage with an advisor to learn more about handling money.  Who wants to be treated as second class?  To them, I say seek out good teachers and good classes.  They are out there.  Being a good listener, regardless of sex, is an absolute prerequisite for the person you select to trust.

And speaking of trust, don’t discount your own instincts, ladies.  A study by the investment firm Fidelity found that women on the whole are better investors than men.  They are naturally more cautious and do not panic sell when markets drop.  Their buy-and-hold strategy is a known best practice for building wealth in the long term. 

Men?  Well, maybe we should be asking for more directions. 

Until next time,


“Don’t ever think that you are wise enough, but respect the Lord and stay away from evil.”  Proverbs 3:7 CEV

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Getting Past the Past

 How many relationship advice books, talks, or articles have you read/heard that preach the importance of forgiveness?  Coming off a holiday in which Christians celebrate the supreme act of sacrifice and ultimately forgiveness, now is a most appropriate time to emphasize the healing power of forgiving others.

But are you forgiving yourself, too?  Only the most dysfunctional person doesn’t feel remorse over something he or she has done or neglected to do.  In January particularly, people wallow in regret over some social or familial misstep or are in despair and self-reproach over their extravagance during the holidays as they start to face their swollen credit card bills.  

When it comes to finances, I think I can safely say that almost no one can recall everything he has charged on his credit card over the last thirty days without consulting his card statement.  And hopefully he IS consulting it every month.  I have a friend that, despite being advised to do so, rarely if ever checked her credit card statements.   She got a shock last week when she discovered by reviewing her credit card bill that she was getting charged extra fees for the allegedly inexpensive items she was buying online and through TV shopping networks.  She swears she’s going to stop shopping like that.  A good New Year’s resolution, yes?

But resolving to do better with your finances is only half the battle, isn’t it?  The bills from December still must be paid, and trying to scrape together the money to pay them off might be a challenge.  You are reminded each month of your past financial sins.  But not moving past the guilt you might feel, not forgiving yourself, nor looking to the future, will inhibit you from implementing the change you desire.

I know.  This sounds very Pollyannish.  The power of positive thinking, self-forgiveness, and so on.  But remember the greatest event of all time that we just celebrated December 25.  It might have been buried in your spending spree, but it was still there and is still here as we begin a new year.  You are not defined by your mistakes or your worst moments.   

Set a couple of financial goals for 2024.  Share those resolutions with a friend who can help hold you accountable to them.  (And maybe your resolutions can also include fostering more of those types of friendships.)  And put the guilt behind you.

Until next time,


“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”  Isaiah 43:25 NIV*

*Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission.  All rights reserved worldwide.